Personalised direct mail—theory or reality?

in - February 2013

Yesterday I received a personalised direct mail piece from my local supermarket which immediately caught my attention. The mail piece was personalised on the outside with my name in colour, and it promised great deals and coupons on the inside. I opened it right away.

I was quickly disappointed when I looked at the contents, however. Not a single coupon in the mail piece was for something I would actually buy. There was £2 off a 12 pack of fizzy drinks. Is that a good deal? I have no idea because I never buy fizzy drinks.

As a consumer this mail piece did nothing but frustrate me. Every time my family shops at this supermarket we use our “rewards card,” so they literally know every single item we purchase. If the purpose of the mail piece was to get me to try a new product, the data stewards at this company should know from my buying habits—organic produce, no pre-packaged meals, hormone free milk, etc.—that I would never purchase fizzy drinks. If they had offered a new, all natural pomegranate juice I might have been interested.

If the purpose of the direct mail piece was to get me to shop at their store then they have missed their mark again. We shop at their store approximately two times every week, so sending a direct mail piece to my home to entice me to go to their store was a waste of their marketing pound. Or even worse, if I use a coupon to save money on an item that I would normally have purchased at full price then they have wasted their marketing pound while at the same time getting one less pound from me.

Personalisation in the Digital Era

I see marketing information and advice on Big Data and “the year of the consumer” practically everywhere I turn. As marketers we are all in violent agreement that every communication should be Personalised, that you need to marry physical and digital, and that you should strive to create a more personalised, uniquely relevant experience for each and every customer. But how do you make this all possible?

It is easy to envision how a marketer can personalize digital communications, and I see examples of it every day. Last night I decided I wanted something to read and five minutes later I had purchased and was reading a new book on my Kindle. The entire experience through Amazon was extremely Personalised—starting with the list of recommended books based on my prior purchases. As a consumer this is extremely helpful, and it keeps me coming back.

But what about physical communications?

Since studies and surveys all show that physical communications are more effective than digital, then why are physical communications lagging behind when it comes to personalization?

Are physical communications lagging behind because marketers haven’t realised yet that today’s physical communications can actually be digital? I don’t mean that your physical communication is suddenly going to start looking like something from one of the Harry Potter movies. What I do mean is that with today’s technology it is now possible to treat physical communications just like you would treat any email or online communication. You can completely customise all of the content in any piece of direct mail, and with today’s high speed production print and mail technology you can cost effectively create visually powerful direct mail—or transactional mail with a direct mail marketing component—that is Personalised to the same extent as an online communication.

You might also like to read about direct mail letters.

Source: Pitney Bowes Brilliant Communications

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